Monday 19 August 2019

Book Review: Norwegian Folktales of Asbjørnsen and Moe by Nunnally (Translator) (Folklore & Myth)

Title: Norwegian Folktales of Asbjørnsen & Moe
Author: Asbjørnsen & Moe (Tiina Nunnally--Translator)
University of Minnesota Press

Publication Date: 17 September 2019
eBook - PDF
Folklore & Myth
ARC via NetGalley


The extraordinary folktales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe began appearing in Norway in 1841. Over the next two decades the publication of subsequent editions under the title Norske folkeeventyr made the names Asbjørnsen and Moe synonymous with Norwegian storytelling traditions. Tiina Nunnally’s vivid translation of their monumental collection is the first new English translation in more than 150 years—and the first ever to include all sixty original tales.

Magic and myth inhabit these pages in figures both familiar and strange. Giant trolls and talking animals are everywhere. The winds take human form. A one-eyed old woman might seem reminiscent of the Norse god Odin. We meet sly aunts, resourceful princesses, and devious robbers. The clever and fearless boy Ash Lad often takes center stage as he ingeniously breaks spells and defeats enemies to win half the kingdom. These stories, set in Norway’s majestic landscape of towering mountains and dense forests, are filled with humor, mischief, and sometimes surprisingly cruel twists of fate. All are rendered in the deceptively simple narrative style perfected by Asbjørnsen and Moe—now translated into an English that is as finely tuned to the modern ear as it is true to the original Norwegian.

Norwegian Folktales of Asbjørnsen and Moe is a delightful collection that will appeal to readers of all ages. Nunnally's translation flows beautifully and simply, and the stories are varied and numerous. It is fascinating to compare these stories to folktales from other parts of Europe, noting the similarities and differences. I appreciate the inclusion of the authors' original and interesting forewords, as well as the list showing the source location(s) of each tale. This is definitely a book I would like to have in my home library.

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